A chilling revelation

The Sagrada Familia in 1928. Spot the tourist.

There was an interesting article in El País newspaper on Sunday by José Ángel Montañés. Basically the article confirmed that The Sagrada Familia never obtained planning permission for the building and that the land on which it’s built figures officially as an empty plot of land.

The first plans for building on the site date back to 1886. The original architect was Francisco de Paula del Villar who planned to build a simple church. When he left the project one year after work had commenced in 1882, his place was taken by Antoni Gaudí who had grander plans. Although planning permission was sought, it was never approved.

This isn’t really breaking news.  Neither is the silence that the construction committee has maintained on the matter. It has always appeared to work on the assumption that it can carry on building regardless. What is news, to me anyway, is that the committee hasn’t sought approval of any kind for the building work that’s going on. In other words, they can build pretty much anything they want without anyone else’s say in the matter. Even when it was discovered that they’d built outside the designated plot area in 2007, no-one said anything.

As the article points out, back in 1994, it was assumed that it would take 100 years to complete the building. That changed to 50 years in 2000 and now work is expected to be completed in 2026, thanks to new construction techniques and the 25 million euros that tourists invest in the building works each year. So isn’t it time something was done to sort out the paperwork?

For those of us who live in the dark shadow of the Sagrada Familia, the article makes for depressing reading. As José Ángel points out in his conclusion, the decision-makers inside the committee only see one possible future – to demolish all the buildings that stand in the way of completing its project. And, chillingly, no-one seems prepared to do anything about it.

A star is born

These are the plans that were published in La Vanguardia newspaper this week showing the different options being considered for the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The basilica is due to be completed in 2026 and the final phase of the construction includes building the main façade. Unfortunately, there's a block of buildings right in front of that façade. For years there have been rumours about what will happen to those buildings and to the people who live there but nothing has ever been confirmed.

The plans from La Vanguardia.

The options that appeared in La Vanguardia include pulling down two whole blocks to make way for the entrance, a park, an underground car park and a shopping arcade (option 5). There are several variations on the same idea including the option to leave things as they are (option 2 - not likely). The biggest surprise was seeing Gaudí's original (in both senses of the word) idea of creating a four-pointed star-shaped area around the basilica, allowing it to be seen from the most dramatic angles (option 7). The newspaper encouraged people to vote for their preferred option and on the first day a majority chose Gaudí's idea.

The other amazing thing about Gaudí's idea is that it saves our flat from being demolished. Over the years, I've occasionally written letters to newspapers complaining about the way in which the construction of the Sagrada Familia has affected those of us who live in its shadow. The 'patronat' who oversee the building have never shown any interest in having a dialogue with their neighbours or in sharing their plans for the future.

Judging from the work that's been done to the basilica over recent years, I doubt if Gaudí's wishes will be respected. The need to accommodate the tourists, souvenir shops and restaurants is bound to take preference.

My brother-in-law, Michael Duncan, made the drawing below which neatly shows how our home is on the point of being devoured by the Sagrada Familiasoros. It'll be interesting to see when a representative of the Sagrada Familia will finally acknowledge that people have their homes here and have lived here for 30+ years. A cynic might think that they're waiting for us to abandon all hope... or die. Merry Christmas!

The Sagrada Familiasorus by Michael Duncan